By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The major appliance business continues to sizzle this spring, with manufacturers reporting a 7 percent gain in factory shipments last month.
According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), which compiles monthly factory sales reports based on vendor supplied data, some 5.5 million white goods units were shipped to dealers and distributors in April, up from the 5.1 million pieces sold during the prior-year period.
Year-to-date, wholesale sales are ahead 5.7 percent to 22.2 million units.
The strong April showing supports Whirlpool's recent bullish revision of an earlier forecast that predicted industry-wide sales gains of 2 percent to 3 percent for the year. The company is now calling for a 5 percent hike in volume for the balance of 2002, although Maytag, citing replenished retail inventory levels, is sticking to its original forecast of 2 percent to 3 percent gains.
April's strong showing was largely attributable to the kitchen cleanup category, which led the pack with a nearly 15 percent gain in wholesale sales to 877,900 units. Fueling the sector were portable dishwashers, up 42 percent, and disposers, ahead 19.5 percent.
Also delivering a double-digit performance was home laundry, shipments of which rose nearly 11 percent to 1.2 million units. Gas dryers led the product parade with an almost 14 percent gain in unit volume, while washing machines cleaned up with a 12 percent hike in factory sales.
Coming in third place in the April appliance stakes was food preservation, which rose 7.6 percent to 853,400 units. Here, refrigeration was the lone gainer, up almost 10 percent, while freestanding freezers posted their first negative performance of the year with a 1.5-percent decline in wholesale sales.
Sales also slowed for the cooking category, which edged up 3 percent to 1.4 million units, compared to year-to-date volume growth of 6.2 percent to 6.6 million pieces. Despite solid gains in gas and electric surface cooking units — up 16.7 percent and 17.7 percent, respectively — their strong showings were offset by soft sales of freestanding electric ranges (up 1.6 percent) and microwave ovens (up 1.0 percent).
Finally, room air conditioners. grew 2.8 percent to 1 million units while dehumidifiers eked out a 1.8-percent gain.
By contrast, the so-called AHAM 6, which serves as a barometer for the business by blending results for the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range categories, showed an 8.8 percent hike to 3 million units.
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